Idaho (-6) (-110) over Georgia State
Investment Advice: The Vandals are a 5* investment at -7 or less and become a 4* investment at -7.5 to -8 points.
Analysis: I had Idaho circled as one of the most improved college football teams in the country entering the 2016 campaign, and the Vandals have not disappointed. With 13 seniors, 61% of its tackles and 83% of its points back from last year’s squad, Idaho was poised to make noise in the Sun Belt Conference after last season’s 4-8 finish.
Fast forward to the final week of the 2016 college football regular season and you’ll find that Idaho has secured a bowl berth for the first time since 2009 (won the Humanitarian Bowl) after last week’s 38-31 win over South Alabama.
In that game, Idaho running back Isaiah Saunders rushed for a career-best 142 yards with three touchdowns, while star cornerback Kaden Ellias became the program’s leader in interceptions when he intercepted South Alabama quarterback Dallas Davies.
Ellias has four interceptions this season, which is third-best in the Sun Belt Conference and 25th among FBS players. The ball-hawking cornerback also ranks ranks third in interceptions per game (.4) and forced fumbles per game (.27).
While the Vandals’ defense is 0.4 yards per play worse than average overall this season (6.0 yards per play to teams that would combine to average just 5.6 yards per play), the stop unit enters the regular season finale in excellent form.
Specifically, Idaho is limiting opponents to 19.3 points and 308 total yards at 4.7 yards over its last three games. Teams have failed miserably trying to run against the Vandals’ front seven, managing an average of just 81 rushing yards at 2.4 yards per carry in the past three games (UL-Lafayette, Texas State & South Alabama).
Georgia State arrives in frigid Moscow with a pedestrian offense that is 0.4 yards per play worse than average (5.3 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 5.7 yards per play).
The Panthers are incapable of running the ball, averaging a mere 87 rushing yards at 3.1 yards per carry against teams that would combine to allow 4.3 yards per rush attempt to a mediocre group of running backs).
Even more alarming is the fact that Georgia State is averaging just 62 rushing yards at 2.5 yards per rush attempt on the road this season (and 70 yards at 2.5 yards per rush play over the last three games).
Georgia State’s aerial attack is not much better, averaging 244 passing yards at 7.0 yards per pass play with a 54.7% completion rate. Take the Panthers out of the comfort of their home stadium and they complete just 50.9% of their pass attempts.
Overall, Georgia State is 0.4 yards per pass play worse than average this season. Quarterback Connor Manning has completed 185-of-336 passes (55.1%) for 2,418 yards at 7.2 yards per attempt, but has thrown nine interceptions in the process.
Georgia State improved from 1-11 in 2014 to 6-6 last season, earning an unexpected trip to the Cure Bowl in Orlando. Now, the Panthers are looking to end what has been an extremely disappointing 3-8 season which includes three losses in the past four games.
As Donald Trump would say, “VERY BAD!” The Panthers also lost their head coach in Trent Miles, who was fired two weeks ago and replaced by quarterbacks/receivers coach Tim Lappano.
Georgia State is also coming off a bye week after defeating in-state rival Georgia Southern the week before so focus and motivation will likely be lacking. Let’s also note that the Panthers are 0-5 on the road this season where they are averaging 13.0 points and 274 total yards per game at 4.6 yards per play and 21.1 yards per point. Insert Trump: “VERY BAD!”
Meanwhile, Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan, who posted a top 5 statistical season in the conference last year (135.5 QB rating; 16 touchdown passes; nearly 3,000 passing yards), is having another solid campaign in 2016. Linehan is ranked second in the Sun Belt in total passing yards (2,677) and fourth in both pass efficiency (127.5) and total offense (257.7).
The Vandals are averaging 36.0 points and 427 total yards at 6.0 yards per play over their last three games, together with averaging 32.7 points per game in conference play.
“It’s been my favorite college football season I’ve been a part of. All the hard work we’ve put in is finally coming to fruition,” Linehan said. “We want to have one of the best seasons this program has had,” he continued. “We’re not going to get complacent. We want to finish with a bowl win, but we also want to finish with the best record we can.”
Team chemistry is also at an all-time high for the Vandals’ offense. “I have confidence in everybody in this offense,” Linehan said. “There’s just a lot of trust there. We’ve spent a lot of time together and put a lot of work together.”
Idaho possesses a significant advantage in special teams behind kicker Austin Rehkow, who is the program’s all-time field goal percentage leader (.761) with 67 made on 88 attempts. Rehkow is also the Sun Belt’s leader in 2016 in scoring average (9.1) and field-goals per game (2.09), while ranking second in field goal percentage (.920) and third in punting average (42.8).
Rehkow has made 23 of his 25 field goal attempts this season and has a career percentage of .976 on extra points. In stark contrast, Georgia State’s kicker, Rogier Ten Lohuis, is just 8-of-15 on field goal attempts.
Idaho has added motivation in the fact that its FBS days are numbered so the Vandals’ senior leadership (and head coach Paul Petrino) would love nothing more than to kick the Sun Belt where it counts on their way out of the conference.
“We’ve been through some tough times together, coach Petrino said. “The more tough times you’ve went through makes you tougher, iron sharpens iron. We’re a pretty darn tough team right now.”
Finally, the Vandals apply to a very good 27-5 ATS (84.4%) system that invests on certain .501 or greater college football teams that have outperformed the market by 49+ points combined in their last 7+ games versus teams with a losing record.
Idaho is also a near-perfect 10-1 ATS versus teams with a losing record over the last two seasons, including a perfect 6-0 ATS versus teams with a win percentage between .250 and .400.
Standing at 5-1 SU and 6-0 ATS in its last six games, take Idaho on senior day at the Kibbie Dome as Oskeim Sports’ College Football Game of the Year and invest with confidence.